Rights vs. Reality in Uzbekistan

12.21.2005

The Uzbek Constitution and its law “On Education” grant everyone the right to seek higher education. Educational establishments, according to the Law, can be public or private, provided that the organization is licensed. It is a surprisingly liberal policy for a government that has become increasingly less tolerant of NGO activity within its borders.

But beneath the surface, complications lurk. Although the Constitution permits non-governmental universities to operate provided that they have obtained the proper license, there is no mechanism in place for the universities to obtain those licenses. Interestingly, a licensing organ was designated in January 2004, but no effort has been made to write the legal procedures one would follow to obtain a license. In addition, in order to be eligible for a license, an institute must already be in operation – but it cannot legally operate without a license.

The situation has created quite a catch-22 for those wishing to open private institutes of higher learning. One such gentleman, after trying for eight years to license his institute – the Bukhara Institute of Innovative Management and Patenting, finally decided to open it without obtaining the proper documents. Not surprisingly, his institute has been shut down by the government because technically he broke the law.

The Uzbek Constitution was written in 1992 and the government still has not establish the procedures that would uphold the rights enumerated within it. It begs the question – how can you break a law that isn’t fully written?

[For more information about the Bukhara Institute of Innovative Management and Patenting and the general struggle to establish private educational institutions, read “The Profanation of Education, or Why it is Impossible to Establish a National Non-governmental Institute of Higher Education in Uzbekistan” by Sergei Ezhkov (in Russian).]